After winning the Triple Crown last season and being named the league’s MVP, Miguel Cabrera is sure to be remembered as one of greatest hitters in Detroit Tiger history. So the question that remains is, “Where does Cabrera rank when compared against the greatest hitters in team history?” Here, then, are the top ten hitters in the annals of this storied frsnchise.
Ty Cobb (1905-1926)
Arguably the greatest hitter of the dead ball era, Ty Cobb collected 3,900 of his 4,189 career hits in a Tiger uniform. A first ballot Hall of Famer, Cobb hit .368 over the course of his 22 year Tiger career, winning 12 batting titles along the way. Far from being a one dimensional hitter, Cobb also led the American League in slugging percentage eight times and in steals six times. A former Triple Crown winner (1909) known for his tenacity and hustle on the diamond, Cobb was named as the as the greatest baseball player of all-time in poll of former major league managers.
Hank Greenberg (1930-1946)
Though he was robbed of some of his prime years by World War II, and snubbed by the Hall of Fame until 1956, Hank Greenberg ranks as one of baseball greatest hitters of all-time. A two time American League MVP (1935 and 1940), Greenberg led the junior circuit in home runs and RBI’s four times a piece. His 58 home runs in 1938 and his 183 RBI’s in 1937 still stand as team records, and his 306 lifetime round trippers rank third in team annals. Though blessed with a propensity for hitting the long ball, Greenberg was a discriminate hitter who posted a .319 lifetime batting average for the Tigers while leading the league in walks twice.
Al Kaline (1953-1974)
Nicknamed “Mr. Tiger,” Al Kaline spent his entire 22 year career with Detroit. A Hall of Famer who collected 3,007 lifetime hits, Kaline won the 1955 A.L. batting title at the age of twenty. Current holder of the team’s record for career home runs with 399, Kaline was selected to an All-Star team 15 of 22 seasons in the league. An all around player known for more than his hitting prowess, Kaline collected ten gold gloves for his defensive work in the outfield as well.
Harry Heilmann (1914-1929)
Overshadowed by his more famous teammate Ty Cobb, Harry Heilmann was a bona fide hitting star in his own right, winning four league batting titles while averaging .342 over a 15 year span for the Tigers. Inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1952, it is worth noting that Heilmann’s four batting titles were all won with batting averages over .390. After his playing career was through, Heilmann spent another 17 years broadcasting Tiger games.
Charlie Gehringer (1924-1942)
A Hall of Famer who spent 19 seasons and 2,323 games in a Tiger uniform, Charlie Gehringer won the A.L. MVP award in 1937 after having finished second in 1934. A steady hitter dubbed the “Mechanical Man” for his consistency, Gehringer compiled a .320 career average while collecting over 200 hits in a season seven times. Ranked second on the team in lifetime runs scored (1774), Gehringer also drove in 1427 runs during his tenure with the Tigers.
Miguel Cabrera (2008-Present)
Currently enjoying a monstrous 2013 season a year after winning the Triple Crown and taking home the American League Most Valuable Player award, Miguel Cabrera is working on a third straight batting crown. An exceptional hitter with a career batting average of .328 for the Tigers, Cabrera has already taken over ninth place on the team annals for career home runs. By the time his career in Detroit winds down to a close, Cabrera will most likely move up a few more places on this list.
Sam Crawford (1903-1917)
Virtually ignored by Hall of Fame voters until the Veterans Committed corrected the wrong in 1957, Sam Crawford still holds the major league record for most career triples, with 249 out of his 309 triples coming in a Tiger uniform. In a career that spanned 15 seasons for the team, Crawford would compile 2466 hits, 1264 RBIs, while hitting .309. During his tenure in Detroit he led the league in triples four times and in RBI’s three times.
George Kell (1946-52)
Though he spent only seven of his 15 year career in Detroit, Hall of Famer George Kell nevertheless enjoyed his most successful seasons for the Tigers. His tenure with the team included five straight All-Star appearances, a batting title (1949) and back to back seasons where he led the league in hits and doubles. By the time he was traded to Boston, Kell had compiled a .325 batting average in a Tiger uniform.
Bobby Veach (1012-1923)
With three Hall of Fame teammates (Cobb, Crawford and Heilmann) who obscured what he did on the diamond, it’s very easy to overlook Bobby Veach as one of the best hitters in Tiger history. Still, Veach led the league in RBI’s on three occasions, and batted over .300 eight times during a 12 year tenure with the team. By the time he was done in Detroit, Veach had driven in 1,042 runs and collected 540 extra base hits.
Harvey Kuenn (1952-1960)
An All-Star in each of his seven full seasons with the team, Harvey Kuenn was voted the A.L. Rookie of the year in 1953. During his stay on the team, Kuenn would lead the league in hits four times and win the league batting title in 1959. In just 1,049 games with the team Kuenn would collect 1,372 hits while hitting .314.
Honorable Mentions: Heinie Manush (1923-27), Goose Goslin (1934-37), Rocky Colavito (1960-63), Norm Cash (1960-74), Ron Leflore (1974-79), Magglio Ordonez (2005-2011), Rusty Staub (1976-1979), Maggalio Ordonez (2005-2011)